ACTION COMICS #976 by Dan Jurgens and Doug Mahnke
"Superman: Reborn" comes to a close with satisfying revelations and an emotional conclusion that just might bring tears to your eyes.
93 %
Thrilling action and emotional reunions
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At long last, the mystery of the Rebirth Superman has been solved. After nearly a year of build-up, the “Superman: Reborn” story arc has answered fans’ most pressing questions about the fake Clark Kent and the coexisting New 52 and Rebirth Supermen. Though some questions remain, ACTION COMICS #976 provides some very satisfactory resolutions and sets up even more intriguing questions about Superman’s future. Please note that SPOILERS for this issue, as well as the entire “Superman: Reborn” arc, will follow.

Action Comics #976

As many fans, including myself, long suspected, the original Superman was split in two. When the New 52 Superman and Rebirth Superman first met we were led to believe that they were from two alternate realities, but we now know that they are one and the same. The New 52 Superman was deprived of his memories and seemingly de-aged. The Rebirth Superman had his original memories intact, but no knowledge of anything the New 52 Superman experienced. We learn this through Jon’s interactions with the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane, neither of whom remember he’s their son. A cackling Mr. Mxyzptlk acknowledges that this experiment was not of his own doing, alluding to the tampering of Superman’s memories by Dr. Manhattan. Though Mxyzptlk prepares to leave them all stranded in the inter-dimensional space, Jon’s love for his parents calls their energy to him, in the form of blue orbs (last issue red orbs represented the younger Superman and Lois’ energy). The energies of New 52 and Rebirth Superman and Lois bonds together, causing the world’s timeline to realign… and Superman to emerge wearing his classic pre-New 52 costume! Thus Superman and Lois Lane are made whole once more.

READ: Part 3 of “Superman: Reborn” took place in the pages of SUPERMAN #19 — we reviewed it here! 

ACTION COMICS #976 wins major points for answering all our questions succinctly. They promised us an answer in this issue, and they certainly gave it to us. It might have been a bit predictable but, given how well it was executed, that isn’t really a problem. With writer Dan Jurgens’ skill for pacing, the issue flies by at lightning speed, filled with palpable tension as Mxyptlk’s world collapses around the Kents. There’s a genuine sense of desperation as Jon begs for his parents to remember him. Most important of all is the emotional core that glues the story together. It’s Jon’s love for his parents that brings their essence back to him, it’s love that Dr. Manhattan took away, and it’s love that makes the family whole once more. Indeed, the scene in which they’re all reunited is a tearjerker, told on a double page spread chronicling Superman and Lois’ entire life together. It’s this issue’s blend of heart-stopping action and heart-tugging emotion that makes it one of ACTION COMICS’ finest entries.

If there is one flaw to be found here, it’s that Rebirth Superman and Lois Lane don’t appear to have been particularly affected by Manhattan’s tampering. They state at the end that they finally feel whole once more, but when did they ever mention feeling like something was missing? Throughout Rebirth’s run, we were given hints at their true origins, but none of that came from Superman or Lois. They seemed perfectly content with their lives. This inconsistency isn’t really this issue’s fault; it’s just something that should have been addressed earlier on.

Action Comics #976

Though the feelings of wholeness expressed by Superman and Lois don’t entirely ring true, the love they share with each other, and with Jon, permeates the issue. The artwork by Doug Mahnke greatly assists Jurgens in selling the heart of the story. The anguish from Jon, the sinister glee from Mxy, the determination from Superman – all expressed in great detail through Mahnke’s pencils. He manages to draw his characters in a variety of different forms. Superman is seen in three different costume variations and all pop out with clear, yet subtle, differences. Mxy too is portrayed in a variety of shapes and sizes, giving Mahnke a great exercise in drawing for scale. Most impressive of all is the two-page spread that chronicles Superman and Lois’ life story, and the following page where Superman triumphantly returns in his classic costume. The artwork draws out genuine emotion from these moments, creating a truly moving reading experience.

READ: “Superman: Reborn” featured an epic set-up in ACTION COMICS #974. Discover how it all began in our review!

With “Superman: Reborn” behind us, the stage is set for an exciting new chapter in Superman’s life. The mystery of the Supermen was such a fascinating aspect of the Rebirth era, and the revelations in ACTION COMICS #976 couldn’t have been handled better. Now is the time to move forward. With the Man of Steel back in his pre-New 52 classic red and blue colors and his loving family by his side, it’s time at last for the true Superman to take flight. Up, up, and away!

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